April 13th, 2017
Haunter’s Guide To Recruiting Volunteers and Keeping Them
It’s 7:30 pm…5 actors are here…30 minutes before show time. Now we just need 10 more actors to fill every assigned spot. Are they going to show? I know it’s Saturday night and they’re teenagers; but they should still be here like they said two weeks ago.
We’ve all been there. That mysterious place between confidence and worry. Hoping your team arrives when they are supposed to. Trusting them to be as passionate as you are about this sport of chasing the scare. But the truth is- if you are the one building the home haunt, directing the big haunt, or being a leader in your choice of dark creation-then you probably have more invested in this than they do. Don’t get me wrong. There are many passionate haunters out there; it’s just different when you’re the owner and leader of the haunt.
So where do you find quality people? And how do you keep them from burning out too soon and keep them around for next year?
Here are a few ideas you can try and implement with your staff, actors, volunteers, and crew members. If you have any good ideas, please share them in a comment below.
- Social Media – This is the most important time to utilize all the contacts that you have. Your local friends on Facebook. You can narrow down your twitter list to find local haunters and Halloween junkies. Check your email contact list for people you have forgotten about. Think about any application where you have a friend or contact and reach out to them.
- Pick Up The Phone – Go through your phone contacts and search your old friends. Who has helped before or would make good scare actor. Maybe they can help out with the line or repairs. Most of your friends would be willing if you just ask.
- Classifieds and Craigslist – You can write out a scary themed “Wanted” ad to get some attention from the locals. If you write a print-ready press release to your local newspaper they might just put in on the front page. It has to be something they think the readers would want to hear about. Use your story as what makes your situation unique. “We are a charity haunt for….” “We have used 90% recycled materials from the neighborhood…” People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The same rules apply for Craigslist.
- Stopping Strangers – Yes. I admit it. I have used this one. And have been accurate most of the time. I only use this one as a last resort. We kind of know others who might be interested in dark and scary things. Look for tattoos, piercings, heavy metal t-shirts, dark make-up, Halloween jewelry, and use your instincts. Now I’m not saying that all haunters look like this and vice versa; just that this technique works for me.
- Have a hiring process – Set up certain criteria for helpers when working at your haunt. Even an audition if they are acting. Even if you are short of help, you don’t want someone there who is going to be unsafe or disruptive. Be up front with your rules and let them know of the consequences. This will also keep everyone with the same goals in mind.
- Age Does Matter – Kids 16 or younger have difficult time getting rides. Set up a car pool for everyone. Pay for the gas. Try to have an adult with children under 16 because having many kids equals spontaneous laughter and talking. I usually have lots of candy for my little helpers.
- Use your veteran helpers – The old trustees can help you train, recruit, and supervise the newbies. Treat them well and you’ll have back-up for life. Give them cooler t-shirts than the rest of the crew. If you are making a profit, pay them more. They are your commanders-treat them as such.
- Reward Good Behavior – People are driven by rewards and power. Set up contests before the season. A $200 prop for “Best Actor”. Free badges or different t-shirts for perfect attendance. Everyone who makes it through the season will get to go to the annual trip to Transworld. Make it tasty.
- Make Them Comfortable – The more relaxed they are the more they will want to stay. Have a neutral area where they can relax and take a break. Keep refreshments and snacks on hand. We usually fed everyone before we started each night. If you have enough actors, rotate them out to keep them from getting burnt out. Check on them and see what they need. Make sure they have the right tools, flashlights, chairs for sitting, and are feeling like family. Make sure they have what you have.
- Communicate – The worst thing for an actor sitting in a dark corner is wondering if there is another group coming through or if they are just curled up in a ball for no reason. Have a way to communicate the flow of the line and what’s going on. I’ve used walkie talkies for group leaders and air horns for checkpoints. Once the horn blows everyone has a time-for-action.
- Show Appreciation – Just by saying “You were awesome when that one girl came around that corner” or “Where did you learn to act like that?” Say “Thank You” and show that you are interested in them and they will keep coming back.